One of Rhea County’s long-time rivals will be paying a trip to Eagle Stadium for the first time in seven years to face the Eagles.
The Bradley Central Bears (2-2) and the Eagles (3-1) have faced each other a total of 28 times with the Bears holding a 13-15 advantage in the series.
For most of the time since it was first played in , the rivalry was one of the premier matchups in the Tennessee Valley, producing some amazing games on the gridiron over the years.
However, with the most recent editions of the series going in the direction of the Bears, the Eagles are looking to get back on the winning side of the record against their one of their cross-river rivals.
The Eagles are 0-7 against the Bears in their last 7 meetings. Including a 21-7 loss in Cleveland last year that was 7-7 until the 4th quarter.
On offense, the Bears are replacing Lameric Tucker, a speedy athlete who played wide receiver that is currently playing for the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga.
The Bears return quarterback Dylan Standifer (#8) for his last year in the black and gold, and have found a couple of go-to weapons in 6’5, 190 pound sophomore wide receiver Tray Curry (#12) and 5’10 junior running back Ricky McCleary (#2).
Both of these young men have been pleasant surprises for the Bear offense this season, with McCleary stealing the show last week in Bradley Central’s 32-14 blasting of the Cleveland Blue Raiders in which he accounted for four of the team’s touchdowns, ran for 93 yards, and added over 40 receiving.
Curry is a long, rangy wide receiver with scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Arkansas on top of high interest from many other Division 1 schools.
Standifer, entering his second season as the starting quarterback, manages the pass-heavy shotgun offense exceptionally well, and he has deceptive athleticism when it comes to extending plays and finding running room when needed.
The Bears’ defense is reloading at the linebacker position this season after losing current Appalachian State Mountaineer Jay Person, but has had good production from seniors Brent Keaton (#41, OLB), Hayden Ownbey (#31, MLB), and VJ Garth (#43, DE/TE) and others.
I personally believe that this contest could cause some problems for the Eagles’ secondary with Standifer throwing to Curry and others in the vertical passing game along with McCleary being a viable option out of the backfield, but, I like how the Eagles match up with this Bears defense.
While they have replaced Person admirably, there is much left to be seen about how well they can defend against the run. Against Sincere Quinn, the stellar running back from Ooltewah, the Bears defense bottled him up well, but had tons of trouble stopping a potent Farragut running attack to open the season.
If the Eagles had only one option to go to in the running game, Friday night could be a long one. However, with the triple option coming back into form with the big region win at Lenoir City last week, I look for the home team to utilize the deception of the option on top of the athleticism of the wing backs and power of the fullbacks to keep the ground game as top priority.
Watch out for Zack Pemberton, though. The 3rd year starting quarterback has been huge for this offense and has been running the ball quite effectively for the Eagles these last four games, and I look for him to have another big night in the running game.
While the Bradley Central offense is electric, I think the Eagles will try to hang onto the ball for as long as possible to limit the Bears’ possessions.
I look for this game to be low scoring with the Eagles winning it late.
Brian’s pick: Rhea County 24, Bradley Central 21.
Other Region 4-5A Games:
Cleveland (1-3) @ Walker Valley (0-4)
Brian’s pick: Cleveland 42, Walker Valley 14
Powell (4-1) @ Lenoir City (2-3)
Brian’s pick: Lenoir City 24, Powell 21
Knoxville Catholic (2-2) @ Brentwood Academy (5-0)
Brian’s pick: Brentwood Academy 35, Knoxville Catholic 10
Soddy-Daisy (3-1) @ Ooltewah (4-1)
Brian’s pick: Soddy-Daisy 21, Ooltewah 20
Brian’s Pick Record (By wins/losses): 10-6